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10 years stronger ... 10 years softer

(10 minute read)

I0 years ago today, it was the last day of my childhood, I was about to turn 18.

Although, there was no partying planned for my 18th birthday.

There was no alcohol.

No showing my ID proudly in a club to order my first (legal) drink at the bar.

No rolling through the door after a night of dancing until the sun came up.

I was heavily pregnant.

I was 17 and in two months I would be a mother.

I would have a real life human to look after.

And I was terrified to my core.

Although I didn’t show it. I wore the “happy mum to be” costume so very well.

As women we are pretty good at wearing costumes … how many times have you said “I’m fine” when you were falling apart inside? How many times have you posted happiness and success online when in reality you are struggling?

We wear SO many costumes.

I got fed up of wearing costumes, so I ripped them all off, tore them apart and got pretty naked; I am starting to tell my imperfect, flawed and raw story, because I realised it had power; power to heal me and power to heal others.

I look back at the girl in the decade old photos and I see the sadness hidden behind her eyes, the guilt in her heart for some of her choices and the struggle in her soul pleading for help.

I moved out of home at 16 and spent time with someone whom taught me that love meant doing as I was told, being quiet and taking up as little room as possible.

I started to reduce my food intake because I didn’t deserve to eat, I didn’t deserve to take up space in this world, I didn’t deserve anything, I was totally unworthy. Soon I was struggling to eat more than an apple for breakfast, a “cup-o-soup” for lunch and a 350kcal ready meal for dinner. I secluded myself, my weight plummeted and so did any ounce left of my self worth.

I never was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa because at 49kg I wasn’t thin enough. I started purging, because I needed to numb, I needed to feel empty, but I wasn’t diagnosed with bulimia nervosa because I wasn’t sick enough. So, there I was at 17, I wasn’t thin enough sick enough to access support, that guy was right all along, simply I wasn’t enough.

Then one day, I woke up and felt different, more womanly, I couldn’t possibly be pregnant, I hadn’t menstruated for six months; but I was. 14 weeks gone and I hadn’t even noticed.

How on earth could I look after a child when I couldn’t even look after myself?

A few days later, I finally had the courage to tell my mum. Not only was I an A star student, getting ready to go to University to study Forensic Science, but I was also only 17, I was still a kid myself. I couldn’t possibly become a mother.

We booked an abortion. It was in two days.

Two days came around.

I hadn’t slept for a while so looking back perhaps it was delirium; but at the time I am sure the universe was trying to speak to me.

It was trying to tell me that I had been given this baby for a reason; because he needed me, and I needed him; even if it didn’t quite feel like it right now.

I picked up the phone and read my number aloud to the person on the end.

“I need to cancel my appointment”. I said.

17 years old, clueless, terrified, penniless, vulnerable but this … this baby held magic and I knew it.

From that point I never starved myself again, never used a laxative nor vomited either. I took care of myself physically and emotionally.

I completed my A levels 8 months pregnant, gave birth when I had just turned 18 and fell in love with my son instantly. He was tiny and perfect. I adored motherhood.

I was making every practical step possible to be the best role model I could be for him, I enrolled on my personal training course, ran marathons and applied to university to study for a career so I could support him. I promised him daily that he would never need to worry about anything because I would always look after him, although I think it was probably me I was trying to convince.

When he turned one I accepted my scholarship to university and together we left to enrol on our new adventure. A few months later, I finally found the courage to leave a relationship filled with cruelty. It took more courage than I had and still have ever experienced to walk away; but pulling myself out of that poisonous situation has given me undeniable strength, yet tremendous faith and gentleness; and set me on my own career path to support vulnerable individuals.

10 years ago I was an object, I was a victim, I allowed others to abuse me and I abused myself.

It would have so easy to stay and live that life of sadness and emptiness.

But I realised that did not have to be how my story ended.

With the support of my incredible parents, I made the choice to change my path.

10 years later I am about to turn 28.

I have a degree in Dietetics and Nutrition, a post grad in Performance Nutrition awarded by the International Olympic Committee and I am completing another Post Grad in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Addiction.

I have been voted the UK’S top Personal Trainer and won a Lifetime Achievement Award for my and my son’s voluntary work in Ghanaian Orphanages.

I have fallen in and out of love, gone through an abortion alone, watched my father die of cancer, experienced the most debilitating grief and I am still standing strong.

I have won body building trophies and broken the British Records and taken a gold medal home from the European Powerlifting Championships, I have run marathons and hundreds of half marathons, I have swum, cycled and ran 230km across Australia and travelled the Pacific Ocean.

I have opened a nutrition clinic, published a book, supported hundreds of clients and created a happy home with a wonderful partner and try to be the best daughter, sister and person I can be.

I have worked hard to recover from trauma because I refused to believe that that was my story. I have worked hard to stay soft, to stay open and to stay vulnerable. I have worked hard to give love with my whole heart.

And most significantly, I have raised a boy; and not just any boy, my boy; my kind, sweet and gentle child, filled with hope and love and laughter.

I look at him and see magic.

I was a victim. But I am not a victim.

I realised I had the power to change my story.

And so do you.

1. Step out of denial - whether its a toxic relationship or friendship, they won't change until they are ready to change and that might be never. Do you really want to live the rest of you life living in fear or sadness or emptiness?

2. Keep a journal - record all the times you feel sad and what is your trigger? Does it keep re-appearing? Get rid of that person, place or thing that keeps causing the sadness.

3. Fill the hole - that emptiness can be filled in a healthy way, explore your passions and find new ones; the ones that make you happy do them over and over again. Fill yourself up with peace and contentment.

4. Surround yourself with positive people - having lots of friends around you might not cut it, you need to spend time with people that are working as hard on their own growth and boundary setting as you are.

5. Make a plan - removing yourself from a toxic situation is incredibly difficult, having a plan in place whether it be a practical plan involving finances, housing, work or an emotional support plan involving counsellors or courses can make the difficult transition feel more within your control.

5. Heal your shame - shame can paralyse us and make us feel like we are bad people that do not deserve love; and once we have been in a toxic relationship we are more likely to get into another one.

To overcome shame you need to learn to observe your inner dialogue without necessarily reacting to it and forgiving yourself for any mistakes you made as well as identifying the pain and work through it in a safe space, rather than push it away.

Mindfullness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy are both effective for dealing with and managing shame.

However messy you think your life is right now, no matter how stuck you feel in your current situation, regardless of how unloved and unworthy you feel …. You are author of your story. You are deserving of love and belonging. You have the power to choose how your story ends.

Live life fully.

Rachel x

If you have been effected by anything I have written in this post or would like to explore talking therapy or physical therapy options please do not hesitate to contact me.

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